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Has the world gone mad?

Bismillahi ir-rahman ir-rahim – In the name of Allah, most gracious, most merciful

When I was a little girl I had a Barbie doll.  I think she was the only genuine Barbie I ever had and oh how I loved her!  I had to beg and beg my parents to make the purchase.  I still remember the day they finally caved in, I must have been the happiest girl in the world. I spent countless hours with my new prized possession, trying her out in her various pink outfits, her high heels, and her diamond earrings.  I longed for her beautiful blue eyes and long blonde hair, but that is not all I longed for.

Barbie had become everything I wanted to be.  She was a role model that instilled in me a desire to possess nothing more than empty beauty.  No dreams, no aspirations, no goals – all I wanted to achieve was to be beautiful like Barbie.  It mattered little to me whether she was good or bad.  Inside beauty meant nothing – outside beauty was everything.  And of course I could never live up to that goal, after all I did not have the blonde hair and blue eyes that not only my Barbie possessed, but that almost every doll in my possession had. It is not something that I thought day and night about at a conscious level, but I do remember feeling sadness as a little girl with the knowledge that I could never be what I aspired to be.

I now have two little girls of my own, the older one is almost 4, and our baby is one.  They are blessed with everything that little girl wanted to be – they are blonde haired, blue eyed, and beautiful.  It has been many years since that little girl grew up, and I have since developed many different goals, but I am sadly conscious of a small part of me that is happy for them that they are naturally what I so desired to be.

As a result of the effect that dolls had on me as a child, I have become weary of the role and influence dolls have on little girls.  I am very careful with the dolls I purchase for them.  I do not want them growing up thinking that this is the only form of beauty there is.  Not only are other different shapes and colours equally (and sometimes even more) beautiful, but I also want my girls knowing that superficial beauty means little, and that what is important is that they are beautiful on the inside.

So I’m sure you can imagine how I feel about Bratz dolls.  I don’t think hate is a strong enough word to describe how I feel about them, I totally loathe them!!  Perhaps I am reading a little too much into this, perhaps their promiscuous clothing are not as obvious to little girls.  But then I remember when I was a little girl, how people underestimated me, how people dismissed me, how they didn’t realise I understood what they were saying, and how I sensed things beyond my comprehension despite not really understanding them fully.  Children are very smart, much smarter than most give them credit for.  They are like little sponges, absorbing everything around them.  Although they will not immediately look at a Bratz doll and interpret it like an adult, they may think that dressing like that is more fun, they may even notice that those who dress like that will attract more attention, and most likely they will want to dress like them…they will want to be like them in every way, just like I wanted to be everything that Barbie was.

Sadly, however, it doesn’t end there.  There is now a Bratz doll with the word “enter” on her belt.  Apparently a representative explained it as being like a seat belt, an explanation you might swallow if you were dealing in a cute innocent doll with pink frills.  A picture of the doll (as well as the story) can be viewed here, and I think most would agree that you would have to be a little more than naive to buy that explanation.

So where will this end?  Perhaps in the future we will have little girls playing with dolls dressed in lingerie ?  Where do we draw the line? And when will doll manufacturers take responsibility for something beyond the number of dolls they selll??  Little girls need to play innocently with dolls without the pressure to be something they are not, and certainly without sexually suggestive messages.  Childhood should be a time of innocence, let them play innocently without these adult concepts that will change their worlds forever.  It seems that with each passing day its getting more and more difficult for children to retain this innocence, but I for one will be doing everything in my power to let my children just enjoy being children for as long as I possibly can.

Consumerism at its best

Bismillahi ir-rahman ir-rahim – In the name of Allah, most gracious, most merciful

I have recently noticed something.  Something I am somewhat ashamed to admit, but something I need to be honest about.  I love spending money.  I don’t know why I love spending money, but there’s something about it…the excitement of a bargain, the smell of new things, the ability to go into a shop and take away whatever goodies I desire…I really can’t pinpoint exactly what it is, there’s just something about it that I find quite exciting.  I never really noticed this before.  I always knew I enjoyed shopping, but it took a shopping drought for me to notice exactly how much.  I didn’t buy anything other than groceries for about a month, and then visited a local shopping center, and I’m embarrassed to admit I found it somewhat exhilarating.

I should probably point out here that I’m not a huge spender or anything.  I can imagine you’re probably all thinking I just go throwing wads of money away on nothing, on the contrary I am quite careful with my money, and even my husband says I’m “pretty good” with money.  I look for bargains, rarely buy myself clothes, buy the kids discounted clothes at the end of the season for next year, and talk myself out of numerous purchases that we don’t really need.  I do, however, sometimes indulge a little more than I should, and I know I can do better.  So its not that I find my love of shopping troublesome in any way, its just that on a personal and spiritual level I find it quite disturbing.

What I find equally, or perhaps even more disturbing is another discovery I made about myself, today actually.  I love throwing things out!!  There’s something empowering about getting rid of objects, objects that you no longer need, and more often than not, you never did.  Objects that just sit around taking up precious space, making it harder for you to clean and tidy based on the overwhelming amount of things that you have.  Knowing that with each thing you get rid of you have created more space for yourself and made your life that little bit more easy. Today alone I got rid of approximately 3 garbage bags full just from the linen closet, and I still haven’t touched 2 shelves!  All that stuff has been with me for years, it has move with us 2-3 times, most of it I have never used.  Some will go to my parents, other stuff isn’t even worth passing on, but all of it will be gone from my possession, I just don’t need it cluttering up my house anymore.  And I have to say the more I get rid of, the better it feels!  As I declutter more and get rid of more things I can feel a weight lift from my shoulders.

Upon reflection I realised that this is part of what we have become today – the consumer.  We love to buy and obtain more and more material possessions.  The next bargain, the next breakthrough in technology, the next fashion item, and the latest gadget to teach our children.  Then, over the years, we realise we have accumulated so much that it becomes suffocating.  Subsequently,  we go through the cleansing process of eliminating that which we do not need.  We throw out what is not worthy of keeping, ‘blessing’ others with what is no longer of any value to ourselves and that others may find useful.  Of course this then makes room for more possessions and the cycle begins all over again.

How do you break free of the cycle?  I am not entirely sure.  However, I do have some ideas which I hope helps to partially remove me from the cycle, or at least weaken its effect.  The first step is being aware of this phenomena and writing this piece is a part of that process.  I know its become a cliche, but I really do believe that “the first step to a solution is acknowledging the problem”.   Before making any purchases I will ask myself “do I REALLY need this or will it just end up in a garbage bag, as so many things have before?”  “Is purchasing this akin to throwing money down the drain?”.  Insha’allah (God willing) this will help me to avoid useless purchases and keep me on track.

The second thing I plan to implement is to focus on quality instead of quantity or price.  I remember when I first got married I needed so many things so I just tried to get them as cheaply as I could.  Not having experience with buying many of these things, I couldn’t tell the difference between a cheap item and something that appeared to be the same, served the same function, but which had a price tag which was a few times higher than the cheaper item.  So naturally I would purchase the cheaper item.  It didn’t take me too long to discover that those cheaper sheets were cheaper for a reason!  They would pill and were horribly uncomfortable to sleep on.  I have learnt my lesson and now I try to only purchase good quality things.  They cost more in the short term, but you save in the long run.  You save money when you don’t need to constantly replace things, you save the clutter of having extra things laying around that you no longer use, you save the time and energy you spend having to go back and look for things to purchase all over again, and you save on the resources you have depleted by using twice as much of the same thing.  Now I don’t mind paying the extra money for something I know will be good quality and will last.  It makes it so much easier in the long run, and limits my role in this vicious cycle.

I doubt the results will be instant, but I do hope that within a year or two I notice a difference. Hopefully I will be purchasing less and throwing out less.  I don’t expect that I will ever cease to be a consumer, but I do hope that my role as one will become increasingly limited and that I can learn to live more simply.

Night Terrors

Bismillahi ir-rahman ir-rahim – In the name of Allah, most gracious, most merciful

She sleeps like an angel.  Her blond hair covering her face, her big blue eyes peacefully closed.  She is so peaceful and so very beautiful.  A far cry from the bundle of energy she is during the day.   Her never ending talking and questions, and her stubborn tantrums.  Seeing her asleep like this is relaxing, there’s something about seeing your child sleeping, it is a beautiful site.

The peace is short lived.  It begins as a whimper. I hear it and a feeling of dread creeps into my heart.  Should I go comfort her?  Will she fall back asleep if I do?  Or will I just wake her more?  I hesitate for a moment, unsure what to do.  Then I realise that she is at the point of no return, she will not fall asleep on her own.  At this point I’m still unsure, deep down I know it is likely, but I pray it isn’t the case.  I go to her bed and she comes to me, but as soon as I wrap my arms around her I realise.  She is not soothed by my presence as she should be, instead it seems to inflame her more.  She pushes me away, at first yelling, but slowly her voice rises to a scream…a piercing scream.  Her eyes are wide open, a look of horror on her face.  She looks startled – confused.  I don’t know what to do. The more I try to hold her the more afraid she becomes.  The more I try to understand her the more she pushes me away.  She stiffens her body, every muscle tensing up.  I can’t hold her, I cant comfort her – I am helpless.  I sit there stroking her beautiful blond hair as she screams out “MUMMMYYYYY”, “NOOOOOOO”.  I want nothing more than to comfort her.  What is she so afraid of?  What is she saying “NOO” about?  What does she dream that is frightening her so?  She pushes me away again, I don’t know what to do.  Maybe I’m scaring her?  Maybe she’ll sleep better without me?  I get up….”NOOOOOOOOOOO” she pulls me in near to her again and tightly wraps her arms around my neck, only to push me away again.  I’m desperate to know what she wants, to know how I can help her but I know deep down that even she doesn’t know what she wants.  All I can do is to comfort her the best way I know how.  I know its not good enough, but that’s all I can do.  Eventually she wears herself out.  Her screams slowly quieten down till they are nothing more than a quiet sigh, and eventually nothing.  Every now and then she still lets out a sigh till she is fast asleep.  I lay there for a while, exhausted from the ordeal, squashed in the toddler bed that is barely big enough for her, let alone the two of us.  I’m relieved that its all over, but afraid to get up prematurely.  I try to patiently wait some more till I think its safe to get up.  I slowly remove her hands from me, and when she does not move I know it is safe.  I quietly raise myself up and walk away, alhumdulilah she is still asleep.  I look back, she is my beautiful angel again.

My daughter is one of the 10-15% of children who suffer from night terrors.  This episode is played out in our home on a semi-regular basis.  It began when she was around two years of age.  To be honest at the time I didn’t think all that much of it, the behaviour wasnt that unlike her day time behaviour so I just thought it was normal for her.  But after she turned three earlier this year her behaviour has calmed down a lot.  And suddenly the night terrors really stood out.  It didn’t seem normal.  Its funny as I’ve read a bit about night terrors and have been aware of the condition for quite some time.  I even studied it at uni, but I always thought of it as something that happened to other people, or other peoples children – not my baby.  It wasn’t till I mentioned it to my maternal child health nurse that she casually said “that would be a night terror”.  Theres nothing casual about it!  Its so horrible to see your child so scared and confused like that.  I know they’re meant to be asleep, but their wide eyes make it difficult to comprehend this.  The whole episode is also scarey and confusing to myself.  I can’t help but ask myself have I done something to make her react this way?  Lately I have noticed a link, she often suffers from them straight after an illness, particularly when feverish.

I think the most difficult part is knowing how to handle them.  One time when I was too exhausted to stay squashed in her bedIi carried her out to the couch.  After about 5 mins of laying on my chest she fell asleep.  As this seemed to work (and in a more comfortable manner) I naturally attempted the same thing the next time.  Now I should probably mention here that my daughter is a bit too smart for her own good (and my sanity).  She’s the type that when you give her an inch, not only will she take a mile, but she will demand it, and force it out of you by making your life unbearable until you succumb to her wishes.  This case was no exception.  After falling asleep with me on the couch I slowly put her back into her bed.  This time she woke up.  She clinged to me, screamed for me.  I thought she was still having her night terror, but this was different.  Yes she was screaming and carrying on, but this was much more calculated.  She wasn’t confused, she knew exactly what she wanted…she kept pointing to the couch, and when I asked what she wanted she said “lounge room”.  I refused, I told her I’d sit with her a little in bed till she fell asleep, but she continued to scream.  So I left, I had to.  I know that if I let her think a middle of the night screaming episode will result in having cuddles with mummy on the couch they’ll be occuring much more regularly.  So I walked away and left her screaming, getting herself into a state of hysteria.  I lay in bed the entire time questioning myself…am I doing the right thing?  I left her for a while.  Of course by this point she woke up her baby sister, so I fed her until she fell asleep again and eventually went back to my older daughter who by this point was laying on the floor just outside our bedroom.  I got down on my knees and asked her to look me in the eyes. I told her that she had two choices, she could either lay down there screaming by herself, or she could come with me to her bedroom where I would sit beside her for a few minutes until she fell asleep.  She knew I meant business and let me carry her to her bed.  I sat beside her while she turned her face the other way indicating she was going to sleep.  Alhumdulilah it worked…this time.

But its always a hard one….how do you know what to do?  How do you find the perfect balance between comforting them in a way that is good for them and not spoiling them in a way that they will constantly expect?  I feel like I’m blindfolded, slowly feeling out the path infront of me, afraid to move quickly incase I make the wrong move and everything falls down infront of me in a heap.  I have made mistakes in the past, and its so hard to pick up the pieces.  It takes a lot of hard work, and it takes A LOT of patience.  I guess its all part of being a parent.  Then just when you think you have it all worked out you have another baby, and realise that you may as well throw that rule book out and start on a journey of learning all over again.

Art or Pornography?

Bismillahi ir-rahman ir-rahim – In the name of Allah, most gracious, most merciful

A recent exhibition in New South Wales which featured photos of a naked child has stirred much debate.  Police seized more than twenty photographs from the gallery, all of which displayed a naked girl believed to be around 13 years of age.  Prime Minister Rudd referred to the photos as revolting, and others have described them as pornographic.

As a Muslim I obviously disapprove of any such art, and I use the term loosely.  However, in a way I can understand the frustration of the artist in question.  Firstly, the man in question has displayed many similar photos in previous exhibitions and not only it did it not make the news, but also during the course of the exhibitions no complaints were made – all suggesting that the photos were acceptable.  Same photographer, same type of photos, similar aged children.  It begs the question, why this time?  If he is breaking a law, was he not breaking a law previously? I find it strange that something can be considered art one day, and that very same thing can be considered dirty and shameful only a few years later.  Have we changed that much in a few years?  Or is it that we are succumbing to the whims and desires of a few in power?  It must be confusing to have the rules constantly changing – to have the line constantly moving.  One can see how this would cause confusion and frustrating.

Even more confusing, however, is our society’s view on pornagraphy.  So is nakedness in art pornography?  If a naked child in a gallery is viewed as pornagraphic, then surely the same should be said about a naked adult.  I fail to see how ones age should alter the classification.  If anything a naked adult body is almost always seen as a sexual image, as opposed to that of a child which would only be perceived as so by a minority of deranged individuals.  Admittedly the child in question was a bit older than a mere child, but I still don’t understand why the pictures of the child would be considered pornographic but that countless other pictures and drawings of naked adults are considered to be ‘tasteful art’.  Some may argue that the lack of consent would make it immoral, that children are not old enough to decide such decisions, and there is merit to this argument.  However, as far as I understand, this is not a factor in classifying whether or not something is pornographic.

A quick look at the various definations of pornography contain different aspects.  First that the subject matter be arousing, secondly that it be perceived as offensive by public opinion at the time, and thirdly that it contain no artistic merit.  Its quite interesting as it seems to suggest that a) some level of pornography is acceptable in the name of art, and b) the definition can constantly change based on what society’s definition of acceptable is.

The above definition begs the question, who decides what carries artistic merit and what is acceptable?  The problem with definitions that are constantly changing based on public opinion it generally becomes more and more lax as society generally feels the need to move ‘forward’ and outdo their predecessors lest they be viewed as old fashioned and backwords. As such, it is possible that eventually in the future we see a display of two naked adults engaged in a sexual act hung up on the walls of a gallery, and eventually even two children, perhaps even an adult and a chid….all in the name of ‘tasteful art’.  When society decides what is right and what is wrong, it opens a pandoras box that we are not equipped to deal with.  After all, if it is the will of the people, shouldn’t the leaders elected to represent them follow suite?

The problem is that society’s definitions of morality are constantly changing.  And as the rules become more relaxed society becomes faced with more serious and severe problems.  On the other hand, who decides what morality should be if not the people?  To me the answer is crystal clear.  Who is in a better position to know the optimal set of rules under which humans would thrive than He who created us.  Whenever I reflect on such problems and issues that plague us it always leads me to the same place.  My faith is strengthened as the answer to all our problems becomes even more clear to me.  It is Islam of course.  There is no substitute for the guidance of God.  If only we weren’t too arrogant to accept it.

O mankind, there has indeed come to you an Exhortation from your Lord and a healing for whatever ills there are in the hearts, and a guidance and a mercy for those who believe.” (Quran 10:58)

Indeed Islam does have that effect.  It heals my heart and provides guidance in an ever changing and confusing world – it is a mercy for those who believe.

Filling the void

Bismillahi ir-rahman ir-rahim – In the name of Allah, most gracious, most merciful

Yesterday I was thinking about the role footy (aussie rules) used to play in my life.  I should probably point out that as a teen my life was quite bland.  It pretty much consisted of two things, school and footy.  Although I had friends at school, I didn’t have any friends who I saw regularly outside of school.  So that left footy as pretty much the sole source of real enjoyment and entertainment, and as such I had what could be described as an unhealthy attachment to it.

It would have been more understandable had I been one of the participants, but to attach that level of meaning to something that you aren’t really involved in seems a little immature to say the least.  Football was my life. From the moment a match ended I would look forward to the next week.  The week would be filled with excitement and anxiety in anticipation of the weekends match.  And then my mood, my happiness, in fact my whole frame of mind would be based on the outcome of that match.  If we won I would be on a high, I’d be happy the whole week.  However, on the occasions where we would lose, and there were many, I would be almost depressed – down and dejected.  I know if one of my children were to place such great importance on a mere sporting game I’d be quite horrified.  However, as it were, I believe it may have served an important purpose in my life – it filled a void.

Nobody can say how I would have been at that stage of my life without football, the fact is I had this in my life, and it could never have been any other way.  But it made me wonder about how teens, or anybody else for that matter, feel without anything to keep them occupied.  For me football was important, it gave me a lot.  It gave me joy and ecstacy, which of course was coupled with bitter disappointment.  It gave me something to occupy my time and thoughts with, something to look forward to, something to hope for. Although in the bigger scheme of things it meant nothing, I believe that for me it filled a void.

It wasnt until my life was full in other ways that I stopped attending the matches.  My growing faith, my husband, my children, all filling my life in ways that football never could.

Yesterday as I was reflecting on how much I have changed since then. I was wondering if this was one of the modern day problems that lead to unprecedented rates of depression and suicide. No I’m not suggesting everybody attend AFL matches, but I’m wondering if the problem is that people have a void – an emptiness in their lives.   Nothing that keeps them going, nothing to look forward to, and nothing to hope for.  In the past people have found meaning in their faith, the central role of their families and extended families, and their communities.  However, I wonder if modern societies characterised by a lack of faith, disjointed families, and individualistic lifestyles have created a void that many people have been unable to fill.  This, I believe, is the problem with ideas and movements originating from humankind, things may sound great in theory, and may look good to begin with, but in the end we don’t really know what makes us tick like our creator. It reaffirms once again in my mind the need to follow the guidance of He who created us.

I still like to watch footy.  I love seeing Collingwood win, but when we lose I just turn off the tv and forget about it.

The promise…

Bismillahi ir-rahman ir-rahim – In the name of Allah, most gracious, most merciful

Earlier today I had a delivery.  My long awaited desk has finally arrived, and with it the promise of a new beginning.  This piece of furniture has the ability to change my life…or so I’ve convinced myself.  I spent months looking for the perfect desk, but to  no avail.  Then a few days ago, after resigning myself to the fact that this perfect desk does not exist (or at least not one with a price tag that appeals to me), I finally found a desk that was a good compromise between functionality and price, so I finally made the purchase and here it is, sitting it its  box, waiting to be assembled.

“So how does a piece of furniture become a life changing possession?” you may ask.  It all started last year.  In a desperate attempt to organise my life I purchased the best seller “Getting Things Done” by David Allen.  I read it with hope and desperation.  I am tired of the lack of organisation that engulfs me.  It devours my energy, my motivation, my optimism, and most importantly it devours my time.  Time that I should spend reading quran, learning arabic, studying this beautiful deen.  Time that I should spend playing with my children, teaching them, being a positive model of organisation and help prevent them inheriting this awful trait that their parents posses.  Time that I should spend making this house immaculately clean.  Time is a precious resource, we have to savour and make the most of every moment before it runs out.  Once time is gone it is gone forever, we can never get it back.

A filing cabinet is an important tool to this Getting Things Done (GDT) system of organisation.  So I needed a desk that had a filing cabinet so I could begin my journey, and here it is…sitting in its box.  It doesn’t look much like a life changing piece of furniture, but this is it!  It has to be.

In the end I know it is just a piece of furniture, it is but a tool, a means to an ends.  I am not naive, I know this will not magically change my life.  The change needs to come from me.  But its a start, and I hope the beginning of a journey that will motivate me to continue to be organised and stay on top of the millions of things that life throws at me.  But I say this hesitantly, full of anxiety.  Have you not had many starts before?  Why is this start different?

My instinctive answer to this question is simple.  This start is different because I need it to be.  However, this is not my only response.  “Getting Things Done” is a great book and a wonderful system.  Its  a best seller that thousands have used to get themselves organised.  I am not the only one who has used this in an attempt to organise their lives, and I know many have succeeded.  I know it won’t be easy, its not a miracle cure, but I also know that there is a reason for my lack of organisation which is a bit deeper than a lack of energy or laziness.  I think these are perhaps a symptom of the problem. It is likely the problem is that I don’t really know how to be organised, and living in an organised manner just reinforces the cycle by leaving you depleted of energy and unmotivated.  After all, if its going to take me hours to catch up, hours that I just don’t have, then I may as well just relax and deal with it when I have time.  Whereas if I was on top of it all, and it would only take me 5 minutes to do, I’d be happy to give up those 5 minutes.

So here I am, trying to achieve what has been beyond my fingertips my entire life.  I probably haven’t chosen the best time, I recently started my 6 month old on solids, and just started toilet training my 3 year old, I wouldn’t blame anybody for thinking I was a little insane for not waiting.  But if i keep waiting for the perfect time it will never happen, there is never a perfect time with 3 young children.  And I need to do this now, for the sake of Allah, for myself, for my children, and last but not least, for my sanity.  I don’t expect it to happen overnight, but I do hope to slowly chip away at it until one day I wake up and I realise I am finally there. Who knows, I might even get to blog about it.  But for now I’m off to read the many blogs from those who have already implemented the GDT system for some much needed advise and wisdom.